We have a great appreciation for our dental hygienists as they play an important role in your dental health. Many of our patients are unaware that hygienists are highly educated dental health professionals with a focus on preventative care. Their job is to help you avoid serious dental issues that can lead to pain as well as the need for very costly treatments. In fact, if it weren’t for your dental hygienist, you would have severe tartar buildup, the hard substance that develops when plaque stays on your teeth too long.
This greatly increases your risk for tooth decay and gum disease. We thought it was the perfect time to give a nod to our hard-working dental hygienists, explain what dental hygienists do, and acknowledge why they are so important to our team.
What Education Is Required For Dental Hygienists?
Registered dental hygienists require a diploma or bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene provided by a post-secondary school. The school must be accredited by The Commission on Dental Accreditation of Canada. To practice in Ontario, they must also be registered with the dental hygiene regulatory authority and complete a mandatory quality assurance program. To maintain their license, they require continued education, participating in several professional development initiatives each year.
Your First Point Of Contact
Often your dental hygienist is your first point of contact, beginning with your initial visit. They play a crucial role in ensuring our team has all the relevant information needed about your medical health. They collect your medical history to ensure health conditions or medications won’t interfere with your dental treatment. This ensures we provide the proper care based on things such as your previous dental work, medical conditions, and prescription medications.
Their history also establishes whether you are at higher risk for tooth decay or periodontal disease as well as other dental-related issues. They also record your allergies to protect you during your visits. At your checkups, they ask about changes to your overall health that could impact your treatment. We then use your history at each appointment as a reference to ensure we keep you safe and provide treatment plans suitable to your needs.
Understanding Your Needs
Your dental hygienist considers health conditions and other factors that impact your comfort level during your appointments. There are many things that contribute to your treatment, including managing dental anxiety or offering accommodations for issues such as TMJ. This ensures you are comfortable for each visit, which helps you remain more compliant with your recommended treatment plan.
Important Screening Process At Checkups
At your dental checkups, your hygienist manages important screening processes that keep you healthy. It starts with a review of your medical history to uncover any changes to your health or medications. They then ask if you have any complaints about your oral health to determine if x-rays are required and to guide them when checking your teeth and gums.
Notes are taken for review with your dentist when we come in to complete your checkup. The next step is to provide an oral cancer screening to look for signs of cancer. This includes checking your teeth, gums, mouth, tongue, head, and neck. All these steps are designed to identify issues early so we can provide treatment before they become serious.
Professional Teeth Cleaning
As you know, your dental hygienist provides your dental cleaning. This is why they are called “hygienists” as keeping your teeth clean is a key step in preventative care. They use special tools designed to safely remove tartar, stains, and plaque to help prevent cavities, gum disease and tooth loss. A tooth polishing also helps reduce yellowing on your teeth for a brilliant smile.
Assisting In Diagnosis
Diagnosis is the process of confirming the cause of your dental issues. For example, your dental hygienist might be asked to take x-rays to spot issues when you book an appointment due to pain or tooth damage. At emergency appointments, x-rays confirm the diagnosis so we know what treatment is required. X-rays are also used to confirm the presence of oral tumours, assist with orthodontic treatments, observe wisdom teeth development, or identify severe TMJ issues.
Providing Precautionary Treatments
Precautionary treatments help prevent the progress of tooth decay or gum disease. The most common treatment is fluoride, which your dental hygienist applies at your checkups. However, another example of precautionary treatment is sealants. Sealants are commonly applied to children’s molars to help prevent tooth decay. Pits and crevices on biting surfaces are common targets for bacteria as food and plaque get trapped there. These types of precautionary treatments are usually provided by your hygienist.
Oral Health Education
At your dental checkups, hygienists check your teeth for tell-tale signs you aren’t using the proper oral hygiene regime. They can help educate you on how you can improve your home oral hygiene based on what they find. By spotting these issues, they can help you become a better brusher and flosser. It also helps them start conversations about reasons why you might not be following a strong oral health regime, so they can offer advice on tools better suited to your needs, whether it is a different type of toothpaste, easier flossing tools, or more effective toothbrushes. With improved technique, you reduce your risk for tooth decay and gum disease.
Your hygienist also helps with preliminary steps for some treatments. This might include specific x-rays, preparing dental moulds, and making sure all required dental and medical records are up to date. Often you visit your hygienist first at emergency appointments so they can help keep you comfortable with an initial assessment until the dentist can come and provide a treatment recommendation.
We are happy to have this opportunity to share our admiration for our hard-working dental hygienists. They are at the center of your dental care, and a valuable member of our dental professionals. Hygienists help ensure you enjoy optimum dental health for life.